This past week I went on a three-day Basic Copy Editing and Proofreading Course run by the Cape Town based company McGillivray Linnegar Associates. Looking at the other side of writing was a fascinating experience and, although the course focused mainly on training the participants to become freelance editors of non-fiction, as a fiction writer I did learn some interesting tips and hints that I hope will tighten up my own writing.
When I attend a course, I always think that if I've come away with just one benefit or new skill, I've had my money's worth. I came away from this course with so much new knowledge my mind is reeling. I still have to sift through it at a leisurely pace to fully appreciate all the benefits.
In the immediate aftermath of the course, I know that there are two skills I've fallen in love with: the house style sheet and proofreading marks. These two editing skills will prove invaluable, particularly when revising the first draft of my next novel (which I'm gearing up to begin writing in early January 2011).
The house style sheet is a document drawn up at the beginning of a book project and helps keep track of decisions about style and grammar. For example, is this book going to be edited according to Oxford or Chicago style manuals? Is 'old fashioned' going to be treated as 'old-fashioned' or 'old fashioned'? Are ages going to be written as fifty or 50? As you make these decisions, you record them on the house style sheet and when, later in the manuscript, you came across the same dilemma you can refer back the sheet. This helps ensure consistency throughout the manuscript.
To get some idea of proofreading marks, search google images for ‘proofreading marks’ and see how cute (and handy!) they are. And it's well worth your while to invest in a good style manual, such as the Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors.
Everyone has different tastes and needs, so no course can hope to be perfect. The main advantages of this course were the valuable course content and the lecturer, who was professional, friendly, highly knowledgeable and easy to approach (no-one felt silly asking basic questions; in fact, I got so carried away asking questions on the second day that, on the final morning, one of the other course attendees took me aside before we started for the day and politely asked me to shut up! *blush*). The disadvantage of the course (for my particular needs) was that it was geared mainly for non-fiction editing.
If you want to strengthen your writing skills and you can find an editing course near your home, I’d highly recommend you attend. For those of you lucky enough to live in South Africa, along with all its other advantages, you’ll be able to attend the same course I did.
To find out more about the editing and training courses run by McGillivray Linnegar Associates contact Ken or John on email@example.com for up-to-date information. You won’t regret it!
Good stuff Judy. Thanks for sharing! I definitely like the idea of a style sheet!
I think an editing course is a great idea. Thanks so much Judy for all this useful information. I think it's funny how a student asked you to limit your questions. You sound like me!! LOL.
@BISH The style sheet is definitely my favourite! It'll make revising so much easier.
@KELLY: LOL - my Mom says I talk so much because I never started talking until I was 3 yrs old and I have all that non-speaking time to make up!! :):)
Sounds like time well spent. I think taking classes is a good way to stretch ourselves as writers.
Hi Judy. Very useful stuff to know. I agree with you. Being a copy editor back in the day (and proofreader) really allows me to wear different hats in my own writing. Thanks for this post.
...taking part in an editing course is essential to successful writing. Let's face it, there's nothing worse than catching errors in published material. Not to mention the fact that most publishing houses won't give a blemished manuscript much consideration.
Proofreading always makes me so tired. Hard to keep the focus on the details
Cold As Heaven
Thanks for sharing Judy. I've never considered an editing course as part of my "training" before. I'm a bit of a "pants"er when it comes to writing style!
However I do spend a bit of time on a proper plot outline so I think I'll buy the book you recommended and see how far that gets me.
Thanks for giving me that little snippet of the 'other side'. :-)
Greetings from London.
Did you think I’d forgotten about all your lovely comments? Not so! Life has been in charge lately, but here I am catching up with my outstanding comments:
PAUL: I agree! Even if we think we know lots, taking different courses can either show us a new way of looking at old knowledge, or teach us something new. I’m hoping to do the Editing Fiction course next year, and one on basic grammar too.
SAMUEL: What an advantage having copy editor/proofreader on your writerly CV!! Must really help your own writing. (BTW, I like your final choice of photo, and the blue shirt photo in your blog header is a stunner!)
ELLIOT: Oh, I agree! I get so irritated by the number of typos in published materials these days. I think technology makes things happen to quickly and too easily so these errors creep in more and more…and yet, as you say, a subbed ms is expected to be ubërperfect!
COLD: Proofreading is exhausting! And I’m so bad at details as it is. The lecturer on the course said the maximum productive “proof session” should be 15 to 20 minutes, before taking a short break to get your concentration back.
AMANDA: I’m very much a “pantser” type writer, but I did feel that this course gave me an extra skill for that second and third draft, when the writing methods are so different from the flow of the first draft. The book is worth buying as it helps with those pesky confusing words like “old fashioned” or “old-fashioned”. Hope you had a great birthday!
CUBAN: Great to see you again! :) Sometimes it’s really interesting to see the other side!
* Howzit = a favourite South Africanism meaning hello!
This looks very promising; might be useful to me, as I am looking to publish a book myself.
I might even try it sometime.
JOY: Even though my interest is strictly fiction writing, I found it very useful, so I'm sure this will help you on your own path to publication. Good luck!
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